DB Antoine Cason (PHOTO CREDIT: Patti Ota-UA Athletics)

2006 Statistics

Coach: Mike Stoops
12-22, 3 years
2006 Record: 6-6
at Louisiana State LOST 3-45
at UCLA LOST 7-27
at Stanford WON 20-7
at Washington State WON 27-17
at Oregon WON 37-10

2006 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2007 Outlook

During his three year tenure, head man Mike Stoops has laid the foundation for longterm improvements. In bringing his brother Mark with him to run the defense (and secondary) like his brother Bob did with him at Oklahoma, Stoops has a trusted confidant with whom he has built a dangerous stopping unit that held USC and Cal each to 20 points last year. Almost every starter returns – all of them upperclassmen and five of them seniors with all-conference status – to make this one of the league’s top D’s. But as anyone who follows Wildcat football knows, it has been offensive woes that have limited the win totals here – with Stoops in charge, UA has only scored 30 or more points four times!!! Seeing their deficiency, he hired aerial innovator and expert recruiter Sonny Dykes away from Texas Tech to run the offense (will also do play-calling). They showed almost nothing this spring of what they are doing, expect for revealing a spread approach that uses multiple TEs/HBs/FBs, extra RBs and poignant role players instead of four- and five-receiver sets to open up defenses. “Old school” two-TE and I-formations also have a place for the power running Stoops wants to keep in their arsenal. After finishing second to last in the league for every major offensive stat (of course, only Stanford failed more prolifically), this is a great move that should have immediate impact upon production, scoring, and therefore, Arizona’s win total. Returning almost every starter on this side of the ball doesn’t hurt, either. Critical will be Willie Tuitama – if the QB cannot pare down his errant ways, look for Tyler Lyon to begin the team’s next regime a bit earlier than planned. Besides the luck of opening at BYU while they break in a new QB, not much falls UA’s way – only toughies UCLA and Oregon visit, and trips to Berkeley, Corvallis and Los Angeles (USC), as well as the season-ending rivalry at Tempe, have the Wildcats earning anything they get away from Arizona Stadium. Still, this team looks good enough to earn that bowl berth that has eluded them since 1998, which is also the last time they finished over .500. If defense is the key to winning big games, Arizona is on the right track to again earning national respect and should soon find itself back in the top 25.

Projected 2007 record: 7-5
QB Willie Tuitama (PHOTO CREDIT: Patti Ota-UA Athletics)
QB - 3.5 DL - 4
RB - 3.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 4
OL - 3 ..

Passing: Willie Tuitama, 118-211-6, 1335 yds., 7 TD

Rushing: Chris Jennings, 105 att., 451 yds., 3 TD

Receiving: Mike Thomas, 50 rec., 597 yds., 2 TD

Scoring: Anthony Johnson, 3 TD, 18 pts.; Chris Jennings, 3 TD, 18 pts.

Punting: None

Kicking: None

Tackles: Spencer Larsen, 89 tot., 63 solo

Sacks: Louis Holmes, 4 sacks

Interceptions: Antoine Cason, 3 for 57 yds., 1 TD; Michael Klyce, 3 for 64 yds.

Kickoff returns: Devin Ross, 2 ret., 31.5 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: None


OFFENSE: Adam Austin-QB, Chris Henry-RB, Syndric Steptoe-WR, Brad Wood-TE, Adam Hawes-OG, Nick Folk-K/P
DEFENSE: Marcus Smith-DT, Marcus Hollingsworth-NB, Michael Johnson-SS

Exactly what will happen under new coordinator Sonny Dykes is still being kept on the down-low, but you can bet there will be a bit more happening through the air from the former architect of Texas Tech’s No.1 passing offenses (2002-05). That suits pro-style QB Willie Tuitama just fine, who will benefit with Dykes also serving as QB coach. The strong-arm junior didn’t impress in his sporadic sophomore campaign like he did with his flashy freshman showing. Dykes says Tuitama progressed well throughout spring, but we think it won’t take much inconsistency from Willie before 6’5 RS frosh Tyler Lyon gets a chance. Lyon, still rough but with great promise, is the future here, and his pedigree is as strong as Tuitama’s. Neither will do much damage with his feet, though, Lyon is a bit quicker motoring away from chasing linemen. Word is that there will still be a healthy serving of power-I and/or two-TE formations for physical running. 225-lb. senior Chris Jennings will get the bulk of carries, but Terry Longbons had heads turning throughout spring as he challenges Xavier Smith for that second TB spot. No one is counting out speedy-svelte Pflugerville (TX)-native Joseph Reese earning carries as a true frosh. Dykes won’t rely exclusively upon four- and five-receiver formations to produce in this version of the spread like many others do – H-backs, TEs and FBs play huge rolls in what will be for the Wildcat offense. The new schemes are a perfect fit for multi-role player Earl Mitchell, who was found at all of those positions as he led the team in per catch average (15.1). Junior Mike Thomas has picked up the new offense well; he and Anthony Johnson (who does lines up behind center when no one is paying attention and will see carries, too, under Dykes’ system) head a corps that loses its top snarler and has little developed depth. Look for depth at running back to find sneaky ways to bolster passing assignments. Also arriving with Dykes from Tech is line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, a huge reason success here is now imminent. LT Pete Graniello has to step up his efforts - too many sacks allowed should see Freshman All-American Eben Britton move over from his right tackle spot, though, Adam Grant also has the physical tools and footwork to protect Tuitama’s blind side. Jovon Hayes pushed all of the incumbents inside for reps as he showed the most of any Wildcat interior lineman this spring. Watch their third-down efficiency (31%) to see if this offense is getting anywhere. Now this is not going to turn into a run-and-gun, pass-most-downs offense like Dykes had in Lubbock, but there will be enough marked improvements that Arizona will definitely throw more than nine TD passes and they will break through the 20-point barrier more than the five times they did in 2006.


OT Peter Graniello (PHOTO CREDIT: UA athletics)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Willie Tuitama-Jr (6-3, 218) Tyler Lyon-Fr (6-5, 215)
FB Earl Mitchell-So (6-2, 250) Brandon Lopez-Jr (6-2, 210)
RB Chris Jennings-Sr (5-10, 225) Xavier Smith-So (5-11, 196)
WR Mike Thomas-Jr (5-8, 173) Bobby McCoy-Sr (6-2, 180)
WR Anthony Johnson-Sr (6-2, 210) Terrell Turner-Fr (6-2, 175)
B.J. Dennard-Jr (5-11, 194)
TE Travis Bell-Jr (6-6, 220) Brandyn McCall-Sr (6-5, 250)
A.J. Simmons-Fr (6-3, 255)
OT Peter Graniello-Sr (6-5, 296) Adam Grant-So (6-6, 285)
OG Daniel Borg-So (6-5, 276) James Tretheway-Jr (6-6, 300)
C Blake Kerley-So (6-2, 275) Colin Baxter-Fr (6-3, 290)
OG Joe Longacre-Jr (6-3, 303) Jovon Hayes-Fr (6-2, 310)
OT Eben Britton-So (6-6, 290) Bill Wacholz-Jr (6-6, 294)
K Jason Bondzio-Jr (5-9, 168) Keenyn Crier-Fr (6-1, 180)



Since head coach Mike Stoops has such a strong history on this side of the ball (DC for Oklahoma’s 2000 13-0 national title winners) – and especially in the secondary – what was an already formidable bunch will likely get a few notches better under him and his brother Mark. The most work is needed amongst the DBs (also his brother’s specialty), and All-American Antoine Cason is a great returning component upon which to build. The senior corner is a popular name being prematurely thrown around for the Thorpe and Lott Awards. Wilrey Fontenot is a bit smaller but produces just as much as Cason. At oft-used nickel, experienced JC-transfers Marquis Hundley and Nate Ness, who has moved from free safety due to depth there, are both vying for reps with Cam Nelson. Senior free safety Dominic Patrick finds capable junior Mike Klyce opposite him at the strong slot. Second team last year, Klyce tied for the team lead with his three INTs and had a huge spring game to solidify his start. The confidence felt amongst the DBs heading into fall will tighten this defense even more. Senior WLB Spencer Larsen will deserve All-American consideration once everyone sees how huge his final campaign is, and outside counterpart and classmate Dane Krogstad contains all the way to his sideline, too. Ronnie Palmer and fellow-junior Adrian McCovy have excelled in the middle, and even the depth looks great on paper. Still, consistency from play to play has been marginal for the entire corps and improvements are needed if the Wildcats are to remain (at least) the Pac 10’s third-rated scoring defense. The rushing defense is almost guaranteed to improve seeing that they lose only one backup from the two-deep. Seniors Barnett and Dobson inside rely on athleticism to overcome size mismatches, as does most every viable tackle on the roster. Last year’s top-rated JUCO-transfer, Louis Holmes, responded to I-A competition well by leading the team in sacks and earning second team all-conference honors. Junior Jonathan Turner and senior Jason Parker, both decent starters at the other end, will be pushed for reps by over-achieving freshman Ricky Elmore, whose fantastic spring has many excited for his four year experience in Tucson. In the strong passing ranks of the Pac 10, Stoops & Stoops need to see improvements within their 69th-ranked secondary if the defense is to lessen foes’ third down efficiency (39%). Regardless of rankings, the bottom line was that the Wildcat D only allowed 20 or more points six times and more than 30 (well, 45) once…to a powerful LSU squad in Baton Rouge. If Arizona can again limit opponents to fewer than 20 points per game (average), they’ll have a great chance to aim for 10 wins.


LB Spencer Larsen (PHOTO CREDIT: Luke Adams-UA athletics)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Johnathan Turner-Jr (6-3, 250) Jason Parker-Sr (6-3, 258)
DT Yaniv Barnett-Sr (6-1, 285) Donald Horton-So (6-0, 259)
DT Lionel Dotson-Sr (6-4, 278) Lolomana Mikaele-Fr (6-2, 270)
DE Louis Holmes-Sr (6-6, 270) D'aundre Reed-Fr (6-4, 225)
SLB Dane Krogstad-Sr (6-2, 236) James Alford-Jr (6-1, 222)
MLB Ronnie Palmer-Jr (6-3, 239) Adrian McCovy-Jr (6-2, 223)
WLB Spencer Larsen-Sr (6-1, 236) Xavier Kelley-So (5-11, 193)
CB Antoine Cason-Sr (6-1, 182) Mike Turner-Fr (5-11, 170)
CB Wilrey Fontenot-Sr (5-9, 174) Marquis Hundley-Jr (6-0, 185)
SS Cam Nelson-So (6-1, 180) Michael Klyece-Jr (6-0, 193)
FS Dominic Patrick-Sr (6-1, 207) Corey Hall-So (5-10, 182)
P Keenyn Crier-Fr (6-1, 185) ..


Devin Ross and Mike Thomas seem to have the inside edge due to experience at the open return slots, but Mike Turner and B.J. Dennard also will see chances to prove themselves. Kicker Jason Bondzio doesn’t seem to have the big leg Nick Folk did, but the junior is now the man for the Wildcats with a ‘collegiate’ longest field goal of 38 yards, though that was in scrimmage. Keenyn Crier, a RS frosh who has been erratic though promising in spring ball, will become an asset once he gets used to things. Special teams were an asset in ’06, but all dimensions here have to prove themselves this campaign before these areas can again be relied-upon strengths.